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Atlanta Ballet 2: Growing up and out

Atlanta Ballet 2. Photo by Kim Kenney.
Atlanta Ballet 2. Photo by Kim Kenney.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, they say. It’s the same for artists; growth takes years of practice, learning from mistakes and meaningful experiences. Just like a city, artists also have many interacting, interspersing parts to their craft – technique, adaptability and improvisational skill, collaborative skill, emotive qualities and more. The heart and “signature” qualities of artists, and groups of artists, emerge from all of these components coming together. And none of it can thrive without attention toward cohesive wellness, all parts well and smoothly working together.

Atlanta Ballet will launch Atlanta Ballet 2 in August, and is currently forming this new division of the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education with all of these aspects in mind. The Artistic Director, Dean and artistic staff are recruiting dancers with an eye toward those who can grow into successful Atlanta Ballet company dancers. They’re also setting in place measures to nurture every part of them as artists, and as people, on their roads toward that end. Here, Dance Informa speaks with Centre for Dance Education Dean Sharon Story and Atlanta Ballet 2 dancer Charlotte Hermann to learn more.

Atlanta Ballet 2 artistic staff are recruiting dancers in a wide and diverse framework – through invitations to Centre for Dance Education students and others, summer tour auditions and scouting during auditions for Atlanta Ballet 2. When asked what kind of dancers they have been looking to bring into the second company, Story affirms that they want those who they can “groom to be artists in our company, [who can] grow as artists, [who] work smart [and can] pick up choreography quickly.”

They want dancers who embody the values that facilitate art-making – “collaboration, growth, passion, respect and hard work,” Story continues. This focus highlights how being a performing artist is so much more than being able to shine onstage; it’s about being able to truly show up, work hard and work cohesively with others in class and rehearsal every day. Those things lay the groundwork that allows those shining moments to happen.

In addition, structures are being solidified for Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers that can nurture the whole person as an artist – essential for helping dancers to show up in those ways, day-in and day-out. Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers will have access to the services of a psychologist, nutritionists, company medical team and Motion Stability Physical Therapy, for instance. They will have an Atlanta Ballet company dancer as a mentor, as well as private coaching, consultations with the artistic team and opportunities to learn repertoire. All of this together creates an atmosphere in which Atlanta Ballet 2 members will be challenged to learn and grow, and have the supportive resources at hand to help them overcome the difficulties that emerge through such a journey – physical, emotional and mental.

Also part of that package are opportunities to perform – not only in a central company location but also on tour. Working with guest choreographers, with perhaps yet-unencountered artistic philosophies and other bits of wisdom, is a step further. Both are wonderful ways for artists to expand their horizons and broaden their worldviews, all of which contribute to deeper and more nuanced artistry. Atlanta Ballet 2 members will have the opportunity to experience both types of growth experiences with one of the guest choreographers, Bruce Wells, in the premiere of his Beauty and the Beast. It will be set on Atlanta Ballet 2 members and tour select regional cities (as well as run in two metro Atlanta theaters).      

These dancers will also dance in a site work at the High Museum of Art and at Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education’s Spring Celebration. The repertoire they will learn, as mentioned, is a diverse mix of classical and contemporary work, explains Story. Such diversity of training is essential in a time when dancers are called upon to dance more and more varied roles and styles.

Hermann is very excited about these diverse opportunities. She’s also very excited to be taking class and rehearsing with company dancers. “Watching the company dancers and being in rehearsals with them will push me to grow even more as a dancer,” she asserts.

Hermann also notes that she and her fellow Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers will receive extra coaching, which will help smooth out the adjustment from their current training to taking company class. “This is very important to me because I know that where I am right now, I am not ready to only take company class,” says Hermann. “The artistic staff seems really focused on helping us make that tough transition from student to professional.”

Story clarifies another important aspect that the artistic staff promotes – an attitude of non-competitiveness – “from the top-down”. Rather than cattiness and in-fighting, an atmosphere of supportiveness and respect for all involved is the culture that the Atlanta Ballet administration promotes, and from there which permeates throughout the organization.

Even with such support, challenges and growing pains will of course be realities for Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers. Hermann describes how she was invited to join the second company from the Centre for Dance Education, and has never before danced a full-length ballet. “I think that the biggest challenge for me will be that there are higher expectations of me now, since this is another step closer to becoming a professional dancer,” she says. “I will be expected to not only improve my technique and artistry but also to learn choreography more quickly and develop a more professional attitude overall.”

Hermann looks forward to meeting these challenges on her way toward becoming a stronger dancer. In Atlanta Ballet 2, she’ll have the resources, and simply person-to-person support, that she’ll need to do so. A city grows from a central location, developing a culture and particular strengths over time. The same is true with a dance company, growing in number, proficiency and diversity of creative offerings, year after year. Atlanta Ballet 2 is one to watch as it develops repertoire, dances farther and wider across the nation, and as its dancers come closer to their potential as strong and well-rounded artists.     

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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